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State Fair of Texas History

We've come a long way since 1886


IN THE 19TH CENTURY, AMERICAN FAIRS AND EXHIBITIONS REFLECTED THE NATION'S AGRICULTURAL-BASED ECONOMY.

In 1885, local civic leaders proposed the idea of producing Dallas' first fair. One year later, in 80 acres of prairie on the outskirts of town, Fair Park was born as the site of what was first called the Dallas State Fair.

By the 1890s, rival Dallas fairs in other locations had faded away. Fair Park became the permanent site for a yearly event with a new name -- the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition.

STATE FAIR HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

1890 | The Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition attracted a record crowd of nearly 35,000. Visitors could enjoy a swinging ride called the Razzle Dazzle, tour a Japanese Village, and gasp at a collection of skulls belonging to a famous doctor. That year, a "lost children's station" was introduced for worried parents.

1904 | The fairgrounds were purchased by the City of Dallas for use as a public park.

1925 | A magnificent auditorium – which eventually would be known as the Music Hall – was completed. Texas audiences enjoyed touring theatrical productions for the first time.

1929 | The OU-Texas football game launched, and became an annual fair event.

1930 | A race track complex on the Fair Park grounds was razed to make room for the 46,000-seat Fair Park Stadium – now known as the Cotton Bowl Stadium.

1936 | Dallas hosted the Texas Centennial Exposition. Most of Fair Park's present buildings were built for this special event.

1937 | The Pan American Exposition was produced, in cooperation with the Mexican government.

1942 | For the first time, Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are sold. The item becomes an iconic symbol of the fair over time.

1943-1945 | Due to World War II, no fairs took place. Following the war, however, the State Fair of Texas entered an era of unprecedented growth.

1949 | Attendance reached two million visitors

1952 | Big Tex made his State Fair of Texas debut

1968 | Attendance exceeded three million for the first time.

1985 | The Texas Star Ferris wheel makes its debut. It is the largest Ferris wheel in North America and the second largest in the world.

2013 | A 500-foot-tall observation tower called "Top o' Texas Tower" opens.

Through the years, Fair Park has been visited by such notables as educator Booker T. Washington, entertainer "Buffalo Bill" Cody, temperance advocate Carrie Nation, last chief of the Commanches Quanah Parker, rocker Elvis Presley, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

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